Out of the Blue (Electric Light Orchestra album)
Out of the Blue is the seventh studio album by the British rock group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), released in October 1977. Written and produced by ELO frontman Jeff Lynne, the double album is among the most commercially successful records in the group's history, selling about 10 million copies worldwide by 2007.
|Out of the Blue|
Album artwork by Shusei Nagaoka
|Studio album by|
|Released||3 October 1977|
|Studio||Musicland Studios, Munich|
|Electric Light Orchestra chronology|
|Electric Light Orchestra studio album chronology|
|Singles from Out of the Blue|
Jeff Lynne wrote the entire album in three and a half weeks after a sudden burst of creativity while hidden away in his rented chalet in the Swiss Alps. It took a further two months to record in Munich. Side three of the original double LP consisted of the symphonic Concerto for a Rainy Day, composed of four separate tracks which together made up a cohesive suite, instead of one continuous track. The inclement weather effects heard on "Concerto" were real and recorded by Lynne during a very rainy summer in Munich. It was one of the first pop albums to have an extensive use of the vocoder, and helped to popularize it.
Concerto for a Rainy DayEdit
Side three of the release is subtitled Concerto for a Rainy Day, a four-track musical suite based on the weather and how it affects mood change, ending with the eventual sunshine and happiness of "Mr. Blue Sky". This was inspired by Lynne's experience while trying to write songs for the album against a torrential downpour of rain outside his Swiss Chalet. "Standin' in the Rain" opens the suite with a haunting keyboard over a recording of real rain, recorded by Jeff Lynne just outside his rented studio. Also heard at the 0:33 mark of the song, which marks the beginning of The Concerto, is thunder crackling in an unusual manner voicing the words "Concerto for a Rainy Day" by the band's keyboardist, Richard Tandy. At around the 1:07 mark, the staccato strings play a morse code spelling out "ELO". The band used the song to open their 1978 World Tour Out of the Blue concerts.
"Big Wheels" forms the second part of the suite and continues with the theme of the weather and reflection. Apart from its inclusion on the Out of the Blue album, the song has never appeared on any of the band's compilations or as a B-side until 2000, when Lynne included it on the group's retrospective Flashback album. "Summer and Lightning" is the third song in the suite. The raining weather theme is continued throughout the track though the mood and lyrics are more optimistic. "Mr. Blue Sky", an uplifting, lively song celebrating sunshine, is the finale of "Concerto for a Rainy Day" suite. Again, the Vocoder is used at the end of the track where, at the 4:54 mark, one can hear "Please turn me over" as it fades out. It is the only piece from the Concerto to be excerpted as a single.
The large spaceship on the album's cover (by now symbolic of the group) was designed by Kosh with art by Shusei Nagaoka. It was based on the logo Kosh designed for ELO's previous album, A New World Record, and looks like the space station with a docking shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The number JTLA 823 L2 which is featured on the shuttle arriving at the space station is the original catalogue number for the album. The album also included an insert of a cardboard cutout of the space station as well as a fold-out poster of the band members. The space theme was carried onto the live stage in the form of a huge glowing flying saucer stage set, inside which the band performed.
The album had 4 million pre-ordered copies and quickly went multi-Platinum upon release. Out of the Blue spawned five hit singles in different countries, and was ELO's most commercially successful studio album. It was also the first double album in the history of the UK music charts to generate four top twenty hit singles. Lynne considers A New World Record and Out of the Blue to be the group's crowning achievements, and both sold extremely well, reaching multi-platinum according to RIAA Certification. Capital Radio and The Daily Mirror Rock and Pop Awards (forerunner to The Brit Awards) named it "Album of the Year" in 1978. Lynne received his first Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contributions to British Music the same year.
The US release of Out of the Blue was originally distributed by United Artists. This changed after United Artists Records was sold by Transamerica Corporation to an EMI Records-backed partnership, which triggered Jet Records' change of control clause in its distribution contract, and Jet shifted to CBS Records as its new distributor. American cut-out copies of Out of the Blue soon became widely available at discounted prices in record shops in the US and Canada shortly after the album's release, affecting the album's sales and triggering lawsuits by CBS and Jet. The suits were ultimately unsuccessful in stopping the discounted sales.
The 30th Anniversary Edition was released in February 2007 with three bonus tracks, as part of the Sony/BMG Music Epic/Legacy series. The 30th anniversary issue was a limited pressing in hardback book with expanded 24-page full colour booklet. It includes full-length sleeve notes by Lynne and ELO archivist Rob Caiger, as well as rare photos and memorabilia. A push-out replica ELO Space Station is included as well as the standard jewel case edition with a full colour 12-page edited booklet. The album once again reached the top twenty album charts in the UK peaking at number 18. A sixth single "Latitude 88 North" was released as digital download single and as a promo 7" single.
In 2012, Music on Vinyl re-released Out of the Blue on vinyl on Epic; the first 1,000 copies were made on transparent blue vinyl and the rest were released in the standard black vinyl.
In 2017, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, a double picture vinyl disc was released by Sony Music and Epic Records.
Reception and legacyEdit
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Billy Altman said that the album was "meticulously produced and performed" and showed the influence of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees. However, he detected a lack of passion in the work, which he dismissed as a "totally uninteresting and horrifyingly sterile package" and "All method and no madness: perfectly hollow and bland rock Muzak."
Over the years a more favourable view has developed. Rob Mitchum of Pitchfork wrote in 2007: "Calling in the string section and commissioning the spaceship cover-art may be a big gamble, but Out of the Blue is proof of how good it can sound when the grand approach works."
|1.||"Turn to Stone"||3:47|
|3.||"Sweet Talkin' Woman"||3:47|
|4.||"Across the Border"||3:52|
|5.||"Night in the City"||4:02|
|8.||"Believe Me Now" (instrumental)||1:21|
|1.||"Standin' in the Rain"||4:20|
|3.||"Summer and Lightning"||4:13|
|4.||"Mr. Blue Sky"||5:05|
|5.||"Sweet Is the Night"||3:26|
|6.||"The Whale" (instrumental)||5:05|
|8.||"Wild West Hero"||4:40|
|1.||"Wild West Hero" (Alternate bridge: Home demo)||0:26|
|2.||"The Quick and the Daft" (Previously unreleased)||1:49|
|3.||"Latitude 88 North" (Previously unreleased; also released as a single)||3:24|
Credits according to the record liner notes, unless noted.
- Jeff Lynne – lead and backing vocals, lead, rhythm and slide guitars (Gibson EDS-1275, Gibson Les Paul Custom, Gibson Marauder, Ovation 1615/4, Ovation 1619/4), Wurlitzer electric piano, Minimoog
- Bev Bevan – Slingerland drums, Remo Rototoms, Avedis Zildjian cymbals, Slingerland Bev Bevan drumsticks, Remo drumheads, gong, various percussion instruments, backing vocals, fire extinguisher on "Mr. Blue Sky"
- Richard Tandy – Yamaha C7B piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, ARP 2600, Minimoog, Polymoog, ARP Omni, ARP Odyssey, Hohner clavinet, SLM Concert Spectrum, Mellotron M400, sequencers, Gibson SG Custom electric guitar
- Kelly Groucutt – co-lead vocals on "Sweet Is the Night", backing vocals, Gibson G3 bass guitar, percussion
- Mik Kaminski – violin
- Hugh McDowell – cello
- Melvyn Gale – cello, jangle piano on "Wild West Hero" (uncredited)
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
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